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Not Even Lip Service to Urban Agriculture

Way back in 1982, before many of you were born and I was just getting started in my business/technical writing career, I wrote an article that appeared in the IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications titled “How to Get Users to Follow Procedures.”  The premise of that article was that people would follow instructions provided that the instruction was efficient, fair, tested and used the appropriate format.  That article won the Gelman Hayward award for editorial excellence. 

Years later in 2010 I wrote a book titled FORMATS INFLUENCE OUTCOMES.  If I were choosing a title today for that book, I would probably use FORMATS DETERMINE OUTCOMES because I’ve come to see that more often than not, formats do determine outcomes.  The application of format as it applied to the content of this book was similar to that of the original article I wrote; however, I postulated format as having implications for all types of human communications including written and spoken.

Results and outcomes are often controlled and constricted by forms that we are required to fill out.  Nowhere do we find this more evident than in the outdated forms that are often used “for efficiency” sake by government agencies.  Any form should be reviewed and updated at least every three years—yet almost none of them are.

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Architectural Uses as Defined in a Proposal from Gateway Planning submitted to the City of Garland, Texas

I thought about this morning when I was reading a document created by Gateway Planning that was submitted to the City of Garland for SH 190/Campbell Mixed Use Center Planned Development District.  In their schedule of Uses Table I saw that “Agricultural Uses” were limited to Farm, Ranch, Orchard; Feed Store; Stable Commercial; Stable Private; and Stockyards.”  And of course, naturally, there were no check marks in the related columns.

Another thing about formats like this:  they are inherently dishonest. For example, this list of items under “Agricultural Uses” is incomplete.  Agricultural uses for any and all mixed-use proposals should include provisions for green spaces that occupy up to at least 5% of the proposed out door space in the area.  Perhaps I missed it but nowhere in this proposal did I see even any mention of even minimal landscaping for this building—not even the perfunctory inclusion of a petunia bed.  Is this going to be another expanse of asphalt and concrete?  It appears that way.

Until the leaders of municipalities change their expectations and the forms that define them in their RFPs, we can expect to get more of the same--urban developments of concrete and asphalt with less than 1% of the space devoted to living plants.

RFPs for any new urban development should include in their plans space that is set aside for urban agriculture and gardens and green space--roof top gardens and more.  Furthermore, any flat parking area needs to be a permeable substance such as crushed granite.  We need to plan and design urban spaces where ecological and cultural values can be intertwined and this is not going to happen until we start asking for this from developers.  Specifically, our city leaders need to write requirements for this into their RFPs and ensure that developers submitting proposals respond to these requirements. 

If you don’t ask up front for serious planning for the areas around a new development, you are not going to get it.  The purpose of landscaping of commercial buildings has for years been treated as window dressing, a dab of lipstick, for the architecture of the building.  It’s time that we advance to a different viewpoint of the importance of urban agriculture and the contributions that it can make to the quality of life in a community.  Speaking of lips, it’s time we paid more than lip service to making our urban areas green.

DISCLAIMER:  I am human and I allow that I may have missed an extensive provision for green spaces somewhere in their proposal.  If so, I apologize.  Until/if then, however, in my opinion the photographs provided in theExhibit C of this proposal mentioned above look very stark to me.  Only a few photographs showing scant  shrubs.

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ADDENDUM - JUNE 27

Commercial centers are planned for the consideration of the shoppers, the consumers who frequent them and who spend on average no more than two hours in the space. Not a whole lot of thought seems to go into consideration of the people who work there, the people who spend 8 to 10 to 12 hours a day of their lives in these spaces.  
 
In general, it's a disgrace how most workers in the world and even in our nation are treated.  For example, more often than not workers are told to park in the areas farthest away from the center where they work.  In some DFW areas DART services stop at midnight and thus workers who stay later (and many do) and use the transit system must walk several miles to the nearest bus stop.   Little, if anything is for the convenience of the human beings who essentially live 1/3 of their lives in commercial areas such as shopping centers.  That is a local disgrace.
 
This needs to change.  One of the ways it can change is with the provision of more green space in these commercial areas.  There can be no doubt regarding the impact of green spaces on improved health of human beings--thousands of studies support this.   
 
A typical retail worker in the USA gets two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute break for lunch.  The green space to which they might escape must be a walkable distance of no more than a few minutes.  These considerations for the people who work in these spaces should be spelled out in the RFPs that are submitted to developers.  We can do things to correct this and furthermore, it's not that difficult.  All it takes is some guts from local government leadership to spell out the requirements to developers in the RFPs they issue.  Too long local governments have bent over backwards and given away too much to attract business into their communities.  The result to date has been huge expanses of concrete and asphalt and in turn more pollution for local groundwater.
 

 

Friday, June 26, 2015